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DNA: Databases

Volume 502: debated on Tuesday 8 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether any Government Ministers have a record on the National DNA Database; (304025)

(2) how many (a) hon. Members, (b) police officers, (c) children, (d) old age pensioners, (e) members of the House of Lords and (f) judges have records on the National DNA Database.

The National DNA Database (NDNAD) is an intelligence database which matches DNA found at crime scenes with DNA profiles of individuals. It also provides police with potential leads on the identity of an offender. An individual may have their DNA profile loaded onto the NDNAD if they have been arrested for a recordable offence or if they have volunteered their DNA to assist in a criminal investigation and also provided separate written consent for the resulting profile to be loaded onto the NDNAD.

The NDNAD stores only limited personal information about the identity of those with a profile held on it. Only an individual's name, date of birth, gender and ethnic appearance are recorded. Details of occupation are not held therefore it is not possible to say how many Government Ministers, hon. Members, Members of the House of Lords or judges have a DNA profile held on the NDNAD.

As with the other occupations listed in the question, it is not possible to give the number of police officers with a profile held on the NDNAD. A police officer may have voluntarily given a DNA sample for the NDNAD, or, like any other citizen, a police officer arrested for a recordable offence may have a DNA sample taken as a result.

However, there is also a separate DNA database known as the Police Elimination Database (PED) which holds the DNA profiles of serving police officers, who are potentially capable of leaving DNA at a crime scene in the course of their duties. PED searches are carried out only if a senior investigating officer requests a comparison of DNA profiles from a specified officer or officers with a DNA profile from a specified crime, unlike NDNAD searches which compare all profiles from crime scenes with all profiles from known individuals. Since 1 August 2002, all new recruits to the police service have been required to give a DNA sample as a condition of employment. As at 30 September 2009 there were 118,699 records held on the PED for England and Wales police forces. However, as the PED also holds the profiles of certain police staff such as scenes of crime officers and vehicle examiners and does not contain the details of people's professions, we are not able to state how many of these records relate to police officers.

As the date of birth of an individual is recorded alongside their profile it is possible to provide information on the number of profiles belonging to children and over 65s held on the NDNAD. This information (for England and Wales police forces only) is provided in the table and reflects the individual's age on 16 October 2009.

The number of profiles is not the same as the number of individuals. This is because some of the profiles held on the NDNAD are replicates, that is, an individual may have more than one profile held on the NDNAD. This may happen if, for example, an individual gives a different name on different arrest occasions. The existence of replicates does not affect the integrity or effectiveness of the NDNAD. The current replication rate across the entire NDNAD is 13.8 per cent.

The data presented are based on a snapshot of the NDNAD as at 16 October 2009. The data on the NDNAD are constantly changing as records are added and removed, hence the figures are a snapshot of the records at a single point in time. The data are management information and have not been formally assessed for compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

Table showing number of profiles belonging to children aged under 18 and adults aged 65 and over held on the NDNAD at 16 October 2009 (England and Wales forces only)

Age

Number of profiles1

Under 10

0

10-15

117,266

16-17

190,897

65 and over

117,450

1 Due to replication on the NDNAD the number of profiles is not the same as the number of individuals. The replication rate across the whole NDNAD (all forces) is estimated at 13.8 per cent.

Source:

National DNA Database, NPIA, as at 16 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department with reference to the report of the Human Genetics Commission entitled Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, whether he has received evidence of people being arrested for the purposes of adding their DNA samples to the National DNA Database; and if he will make a statement. (304027)

There is no objective evidence to suggest that the police are arresting people for the purpose of obtaining their DNA. The taking of a person's liberty by arresting them is not undertaken lightly. That is why the power of arrest is subject to a test of necessity, set out in section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). Police officers are also required to have regard to the statutory guidance in the exercise of the power of arrest, which is set out in Code of Practice G, one of the codes of practice issued under PACE.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of (a) black, (b) Asian and (c) white males aged between 18 and 35 years have records on the National DNA Database. (304060)

It is not possible at present to calculate accurately the proportion of members of ethnic groups in the population as a whole who are on the NDNAD. This is because the data held on the NDNAD are not directly comparable with census population data. The NDNAD does not hold self-reported ethnicity data on arrested persons who have a DNA sample taken, but on their ‘ethnic appearance’. The ethnic appearance data is based on the judgment of the police officer and is recorded for police intelligence purposes to assist in subsequent identification. It uses six broad ethnic categories (plus ‘unknown’) whereas census data are based on 16 ethnic groups self-reported by individuals.

Estimates of the proportion of different ethnic groups on the NDNAD calculated by simply dividing the number of profiles by the population data will give an inaccurate estimate as a number of other factors also need to be taken into account. Examples of these factors are the number of profiles from persons of mixed race, the number of profiles of unknown ethnicity, the number of replicate profiles and the use of comparable up-to-date population data. The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) is working to produce an estimate which is as accurate and robust as possible.

Data are available on the number of DNA profiles from people with black, asian or white ethnic appearance aged between 18 and 35 years on the NDNAD. The following table displays the number of subject profiles retained on the NDNAD as at 16 October 2009 for males aged 18-35 inclusive (based on current age as at 16 October 2009) for England and Wales police forces, including the British Transport Police (BTP). The figures cover all subject profiles.

The number of profiles is not the same as the number of individuals. This is because some of the profiles held on the NDNAD are replicates, that is, an individual may have more than one profile held on the NDNAD. This may happen if, for example, an individual gives a different name on different arrest occasions. The existence of replicates does not affect the integrity or effectiveness of the NDNAD. The current replication rate across the entire NDNAD is 13.8 per cent.

The data presented are based on a snapshot of the NDNAD as at 16 October 2009. The data on the NDNAD are constantly changing as records are added and removed, hence the figures are a snapshot of the records at a single point in time. The data are management information and have not been formally assessed for compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

Table showing the number of DNA subject profiles from black, asian and white males aged 18-35 inclusive (based on current age as at 16 October 2009) on the national DNA database (England and Wales forces only, including BTP).

Ethnic appearance category

Number of DNA profiles

Asian

172,846

Black

193,593

North European

1,817,035

South European

54,630

Source:

National DNA Database, NPIA, as at 16 October 2009